At the end of March, my husband and I took our kids on a two-day getaway to Legoland. The park is only about 40 minutes from our home, so this was a pretty easy and fun “staycation”. We decided to make it extra special by staying at the Legoland Castle Hotel, something our children had been begging us to do for a while.
Courageous or Just Plain Silly?
If you’re my Facebook friend you may have seen my post about my decision to let my kids pack their own bags for our trip. If you missed it, here’s what it said:
I wasn’t expecting much response from that post but, to my surprise, my Facebook friends had a lot of feelings about it. Some commended and encouraged me, telling me I was building life skills for my kids. Others expressed sympathy, shock, or that the mere thought of this caused them anxiety. A few people gave me advice, some shared their own experiences, and one person even called me “courageous”. One of my friends shared that she could never do this because she is a self-proclaimed “control freak”.
What’s Up with Control?
These passionate responses got me thinking. I started to wonder what it was that brought up such powerful feelings about something so seemingly small. And I realized (not for the first time) that we as humans really want to be in control. I think control gives us a sense of safety, but it can also be exhausting.
Like the friend I mentioned above, I am also a self-proclaimed control freak (in recovery!). I’m often trying to find ways to breathe deeply and let some of my control go. Hence the reason I decided to let my kids pack their own bags for our short trip.
The “Why” Behind My Decision
Typically before a trip, I find myself running around like a chicken with my head cut off and feeling even worse. I usually have lists upon lists of things to pack, things to do, things to clean, etc. By the time we get on the road or on the plane I’m an exhausted wreck and I can barely enjoy the first few days of vacation. Since this short getaway was only going to be two days, I didn’t want to spend the entire time feeling like a hot mess. I wanted to see if it was possible for me to let go of some control and relax a bit.
I’ll take a second here to point out that one of my words for 2019 is “relax”. I’ve been making an effort to come at things with a more relaxed attitude. So obviously this decision fit right in with that intention.
And that is how, in an effort to take some things off my own plate, I decided I’d ask my kids to pack their own bags. I wasn’t sure it was a good idea but I decided only time would tell. I was willing to try it out.
3 Steps to “Let it Go” and Feel Okay About It
If you’re like me, this whole idea might engulf you in anxiety and it may seem absolutely impossible. I get it. And that’s why I came up with these three simple steps to help myself (and you) be able to just give it a try.
1. Understand that anxiety is often caused by a perceived threat or danger.
The key word here is perceived. I had to accept that there wasn’t a real threat or danger to having my kids pack their own stuff. When I was able to ask myself “What’s the worst that could really happen here?” and the answer was “My kids might not have exactly everything I would pack for them but we can always purchase something in a pinch,” I was able to let go of some of my anxiety about the situation.
2. Choose a relatively low-stakes situation.
I would not recommend starting off with something big in this case. For example, an important event such as a wedding or a specific activity like skiing, where you want or need your kids to wear a particular thing, is not the time to test this out. In our case we were going to a place close to home for a very short time with no particular clothing needs. The stakes were low and I knew it wouldn’t really matter what my kids wore or what they had with them. The one exception to this was I knew they needed swimsuits and goggles but that leads me to step 3.
3. Set up a structure or boundary that helps you feel comfortable (or safe from your perceived threat).
In this case I decided to make lists for my kids so they’d (hopefully) remember to bring the essentials. I kept the lists general enough so they’d still be able to take responsibility and make their own choices. But, I made sure to tell them how many days/nights to pack for and I included important items such as swimsuit, goggles, toothbrush, underwear, jacket, etc. I knew that if they got the basics, everything would be fine and I was willing to let go of the specifics. The limited structure I set up for myself helped me feel safe but also took the responsibility for the job off of my plate. A great balance and compromise in my opinion.
How’d It All Work Out?
As you could probably tell from my Facebook post that I shared above, the experience wasn’t all perfectly easy and problem free. But I have to admit that overall it worked out really well.
At first, my kids didn’t know what to do with themselves. They are so used to me packing for them (and, honestly, being super controlling) that they kept coming to me with questions about what they should pack. That was kind of driving me insane, it was defeating the purpose of my experiment, and it’s what led me to post on Facebook. But ultimately they got the hang of it and started making decisions for themselves. That was another side benefit of this—my kids took on the responsibility! And, yes, even my four-year-old did it too.
In the end, the only person who forgot something they actually needed was my husband! (We have a little running joke that he always forgets one thing so that was expected.) I think it’s important to be able to laugh about the little things. When we allow ourselves to feel less stress, small mishaps can seem funny instead of like a nuisance.
Can you believe I had my three kids pack their own bags and they had everything they needed? It was pretty amazing and encouraging. I’m planning to keep this up in the future and I’m always going to remind myself of my three steps; they really helped me.
What Would You Like to Try?
If you’d like to hear me chat more about “letting go”, I made a short, two-part video series on that topic which you can check out here and here.
Is there something you’d like to try out in order to give up some of your control? I can tell you from experience it’s very freeing and way less exhausting. Please let me know how you are experimenting with letting go of your control. I always love to hear from you!